Spring is right around the corner (thanks, Obama.) And with the earth growing green, increased Sudafed purchases, and shorts on the Quad, comes Alabama softball and baseball.
The ladies, as usual, tee the season off a few weeks earlier than baseball. And, as has become a tradition, the Tide are a national championship contender.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama softball enters the 2016 season ranked No. 5 in both the USA Today/NFCA coaches' poll and the ESPN.com/USA Softball media poll, released Tuesday. The Crimson Tide received a first place vote in both polls, as did all five of the top ranked teams in the coaches' poll. Defending national champion Florida sits atop both polls, followed by Michigan and LSU. Auburn is fourth in the coaches poll while Oregon is fourth in the media poll. 2015 World Series participants Oregon, UCLA and Tennessee round out the top eight in the NFCA poll while Auburn, UCLA and Oklahoma do so in the USA Softball poll.
Alabama has a brutal slate. In addition to the nine SEC schools ranked in the Top 25 that the Tide must face, Alabama plays an unreal 25 games against ranked opponents.
In total, nine SEC schools are represented in the top 25, the most of any conference: Florida (1/1), LSU (3/3), Auburn (4/6), Alabama (5/5), Tennessee (8/9), Georgia (12/14), Missouri (15/12), Kentucky (18/18) and Texas A&M (NR/24). Mississippi State is receiving votes outside the top 25 in both polls. Twenty-five games against top 25 opponents await Alabama on the 2016 schedule, including out-of-conference matchups against No. 9/8 Oklahoma, No. 13/15 Arizona, No. 17/17 UCF, No. 19/21 James Madison and No. 25/NR South Alabama. Alabama finished last season ranked No. 6 in both polls after making its 10th appearance at the Women's College World Series. The Tide has finished in the Top 10 in 11-straight seasons, stretching back to 2005.
If Pat Murphy and crew make it back to Oklahoma City, it will be well-earned with contenders Auburn and LSU in the division, and solid MSU and Texas A&M crews on tap.
Tickets look to still be available in the Brickyard of Rhoads -- $45 for season tickets is pretty awesome. See you at the diamond, and Roll Tide.